For those of you that have followed this site or one of the other iterations of this site (going back to the late 90s), you might recall some stories (dare I say legends) about ice climbing in Oklahoma. Stories about ice climbing in the Wichita Mountains, Avery Drive, even Turner Falls. Those stories are true, or at least base on truth.
Then in 2010 and 2011 I went a bit further and pursued farming ice on the silos of Rocktown in Oklahoma City. It worked the first time I tried it – just using a series of old static lines and running water, the temperature was cold enough to create an ice climb that lasted for a few days. Based on that experience I took the next step and installed a chain-link fence along with a better designed irrigation system and produced a fantastic wall of ice measuring 50 feet tall and about 10 feet wide. The ice lasted for over a week and provided an opportunity for dozens of Okies – and even a championship rodeo cowboy – to try ice climbing for the first time. It was pretty cool.
Last winter was pretty much a bust. And unseasonably warm winter ensured great temps for rock climbing but no chance for farming ice. We took the chain link fence down from the front of the silos and I’d pretty much swore off any possibility of trying to farm ice again.
This summer I began to think about it more. The idea of having the perfect facility and knowing that if the conditions happen to be right that we could produce an ice climb again was calling to me. But I needed another place to put the ice climb rather than the front of the building.
Now here we are about to enter the 2013 ice season. We are in the process of constructing an ice corridor between the two sets of silos. This allows for an enclosed area away from the parking lot and better secured and keeps ice out of the parking lot (which was a major issue). The ice climbing wall is 3 times as wide and equally as tall as the previous years. Sixteen feet wide by fifty feet tall, that measures up to 800 sq. feet of climbable WI5-6 terrain! There are three top-rope stations and we may be adding the possibility of lead climbing as well. The corridor is secured with a gate and will has a small deck at the entrance and steps down into the “pit” area.
The irrigation system is a modified version of what we previously had and is further enhanced with a heated water supply hose and electric heat wrap on the sprayer line just in case of a freeze-up.
Of course this all continues to be a big experiment and ultimately it comes down to the actual weather conditions to make it all work. But at least we’ll be ready. Now we’ll keep an eye on the forecast….
There’s a winter storm on the horizon.